Autumn in Altay, Xinjiang. (Photo by Zhang Xinya from People’s Daily Online)
By Fan Lingzhi
A Chinese scholar with renowned expertise on Xinjiang studies on Friday, December 6, released a report analyzing the so-called leaked files on Xinjiang. The report pointed out three big mistakes made by Western media outlets when they hyped the files.
Zhang Yonghe, professor and executive dean of the Human Rights Institution of Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, released the 9,000-word report on Friday, which introduced the counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Northwest China’s Uyghur Autonomous Region in three parts: Reality Basis, Legal Basis and Main Ways.
Zhang’s report is a direct response to the “leaked files” that have been hyped by some Western media.
On November 16, The New York Times published a report claiming it obtained 403 pages of “internal documents,” which “provided an unprecedented inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang.”
On November 28, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the so-called “China Cables” which it claimed included “classified” official documents in Xinjiang.
Zhang told the Global Times that he and his team quickly drafted the report shortly after the Western media began to hype the so-called leaked documents. Focusing on Xinjiang research for nearly a decade and having accumulated substantial materials, they managed to complete a substantive report in a timely manner.
“We chose to elaborate from a macro point of view because the so-called authenticity that the West pays attention to is actually a trap. Even if we clarify the rumors, they can always make up a new ‘internal document,’” Zhang said.
Zhang’s report showed clearly how the “leaked files” smear China’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts in Xinjiang and it’s a deeply constructed farce by Western media.
Based on the analysis of Western media’s reports on the “leaked files,” Zhang found three major fallacies. First, these Western media outlets deliberately ignored the international consensus on the dangers of terrorism. Second, they seriously distorted Chinese government’s stance on counter-terrorism. Third, Western media used arbitrary imagination to depict counter-terrorism and de-radicalization work in Xinjiang.
These literary-style media reports showed how sloppy their evidence is, read Zhang’s report. For instance, the so-called leaked internal documents said some students learned that their family members are receiving education programs to help them get rid of extremism in vocational education and training centers when the students returned to their hometowns on vacation. Western media reasoned this was because the trainees at the centers are “illegally detained.” As some “leaked files” mentioned the prevention of escape, these Western media claimed that Xinjiang is undergoing “mandatory persecution” based on it.
“The Western media’s indulgence in such ‘imagination’ shows its ignorance of Xinjiang’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalization work,” Zhang said.
Therefore, in his report’s Reality Basis part, it elaborates the grim situation of spreading terrorism in Xinjiang in the past from the perspective of history, geography and the humanities.
“When I went to Xinjiang for research in the early years, we were surprised by the erosion of extremism among some local people. From treating people to everyday life, extremism thoughts have penetrated into every aspect of some people’s lives. For example, even feminine hygiene products are needed to be distinguished as ‘halal’ or not. It’s ridiculous,” Zhang said.
He noted that at that time many people in Xinjiang did not speak the national common language and village regulations prevailed above the law. They did not have the professional skills required for employment.
To improve this situation, Xinjiang regional government has taken a series of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in recent years. Among them, setting up vocational education and training centers is mostly attacked in the West. Zhang’s report showed the legal basis for the centers. The Xinjiang regional government had stipulated regional regulations on counter-terrorism and de-radicalization in accordance with the Constitution and national laws.
The vocational education and training centers are not designed to deprive or restrict personal freedom but is an implementation of the counter-terrorism law. It is implemented based on principles, including counter-terrorism in accordance with law, combination of punishment and prevention, combination of leniency and strictness, addressing both symptoms and root causes, and the prohibition of discrimination.
A series of decisive measures taken by Xinjiang have stepped out of the traditional “passive counter-terrorism” mode, but managed to avoid following the “preemptive strike” and “war-like” mode adopted by some Western countries, read the report.
Under the protection of complete national counter-terrorism strategy and a de-radicalization legal system, Xinjiang has carried out the fight against terrorism and extremism in accordance with the law, which effectively curbed the frequent occurrence of terrorist activities. It also conducted extensive international cooperation in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization, protecting the basic rights of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and safeguarding national unity against terrorism and extremism, said the report.
“However, Western media is still obsessed with imagination. They are unwilling to know the truth and even scared to see the truth, because there will be no room for their imagination then,” Zhang said.
Zhang lamented that under the long-standing ideological separation, Western media are accustomed to set the tone that whatever China does, it is wrong.
“No matter what, mainstream Western media will still be biased, but we still have to spread the true voice. After all, this world is not just about the United States and Western countries,” Zhang said.
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